Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions: Part 1 – The Differential

This is what Mad_Science sees in his head when I talk about working on cars...
This is what Mad_Science sees in his head when I talk about working on cars…

I have a confession to make my friends… I don’t know that much about what is actually going on deep inside the guts of a car. I can drive them, spout off some some random specs on modern cars and trucks, and I like to believe I can write about them to some degree. Being part of a LeMons team has helped me learn a bit (Guibo anyone?) but I know there are folks out there like me who LOVE everything with an engine and wheels, but don’t know as much as their fellow hoons. This is the series for you! I found a video that shows exactly how a differential works and it explains it in the best way I have ever seen… hop the jump for enlightenment.

Like the video suggests, the real action starts at 1:50 in.. however make sure you stay tuned all the way through because the end features the original ghost ridin’ hoons.
I hope this video provided some insight into a very interesting (and now, much more clearly explained) part of our favorite mode of transportation.
If you have questions, this is the post for you to ask them. There is no embarrassment here… if you are a little shy though, shoot me an email at and let me know about a part of a car or truck that puzzles you. I will do the research and/or find a kick-ass video like the one above that will help make something easier to understand.
One post at a time, we will learn more about the objects of our affection… which will make us love them even more.

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50 responses to “Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions: Part 1 – The Differential”

  1. Deartháir Avatar

    Braff may not be a smart man, but he does know whut love is.
    After my Audi research today, it got me thinking about the various forms of all-wheel-drive systems. Essentially, they all start out with that differential you've got there, but from there, the sky is the limit. Want to see what you can find to take it to the next level, Braff?

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      Also worth noting that there are many different ways to configure AWD or 4WD systems and how they bias torque.

      1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
        Jeff Glucker

        Also worth noting… I drove the new S4 the other day and the Audi rep was explaining how it is the new torque vectoring which is not just front to back, but also side to side…
        I just nodded and said "cool"

  2. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    Wait, you're saying I think of Alicia Silverstone (circa '95) when I think of you working on cars?
    That could make for some awkward times this weekend.

    1. Dr_Dangerously Avatar

      Jeff- "Hey….uuuuuuh, I think you torqued that bolt tight enough now.

  3. CptSevere Avatar

    Yeah, nice point. I for one, have adjusted the bands on a Rambler automatic transmission, made it shift tighter, have some idea as to how planetary gears work, but if I ever dug into that same Chinese Puzzle would have no clue as to how the whole damn thing operated. Yeah, I'm not clueless, but let's hear the rest of the story. Interesting stuff for Hoonz.

    1. Mike_the_Dog Avatar

      I assume you refer to the Borg-Warner Flash-O-Matic? I may have need of your assistance before spring.

  4. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

    I saw a sign on an engineer's desk once that read "you don't want to know how sausages are made or how transmissions work"
    That, of course, made me wonder about both!
    Great topic here. I've found a few "Dave's Farm" videos on YouTube where he explains some stuff too, such as the torque converter.

    1. superbadd75 Avatar

      Aww, sausages aren't all that bad. Besides, if it's a good one, all thoughts about what goes into it go away with the first bite. Damn, I really want some spaghetti right now.

      1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

        Mmmm sausage. The Italian and pork stuff made by the old-timers in their garages and basements are usually the best. Bison salami is pretty damn awesome too.
        I have adjusted the auto in my Jeep once, would like a better understanding of the black magic inside before I do it again. (yes I did it wrong once)

        1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
          Jeff Glucker

          From differentials, to transmissions, to awkward man-love (above), to sausages… back to transmissions… I love this site.

          1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

            Ta da!

          2. BGW, Capt (Ret.) Avatar

            It's been my experience that, on any interactive web community dedicated to automobiles- be it motorsports, arcana or otherwise, it all eventually comes down to pork products. My only surprise is that we got to sausages before bacon.

          3. superbadd75 Avatar

            Well a man's love for bacon doesn't need to be spoken, it should be assumed.

    2. joshuman Avatar

      Is that the crazy Canadian? That guy seems to have a lot of fun with beaters.

  5. engineerd Avatar

    Differentials are black magic and best left alone lest you accidentally promise your soul to the devil in exchange for "enlightenment".
    In fact, according to the Hooniversal Translation of the Bible, Genesis 3:4-6 goes something like this:
    4 But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will understand the differential, knowing torque distribution." 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.

    1. skitter Avatar

      Does your translation mention whether she as a sister who is somewhat less than 6000 years old?

      1. engineerd Avatar

        That might be in the Hooniversal translation of the Book of Mormon.

  6. citroen67 Avatar

    That video is great! I was just thinking about it the other day thinking to myself that I wanted to search for it on YouTube just to re-watch it again because it is so awesome. I say kudos to the kind of peeps that can not only engineer things like that, but then explain how they work in a simple enough manner that all us regular folks can understand it.

  7. blueplate Avatar

    I'm really tired of certain [Redacted] headline writers trying to squeeze a few more pageviews out of the very tired "tranny" joke.
    It's a transmission around these parts.. and that's all. Here's hoping.

    1. Target29 Avatar

      I agree and think that the "other" site should be refered to as TSTGBBL (The Site That Got Beat By Lutz)…

      1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

        Still fond of [redacted]. Maybe [Redacted: Dearthair was right]

        1. FTGDHoonEdition Avatar

          Same here. But this site is like the CSL version of the [redacted] site. More hardcore, focused and un-PC. Love it!

          1. blueplate Avatar

            I'm actually happy for them (in a way) that they are getting more mainstream .. even Rolling Stone moved from San Francisco to New York once. But, I personally need need more "fringe" in my life.

  8. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    This is a great video. Do you guys prefer LSD over fully locked? I know in my little Jeep world locked has benefits, but can make a simple turn a five pointer (as it kills your turning radius.)
    Remember kids, auto lockers and short wheel base vehicles are extra exciting.

  9. blueplate Avatar

    I do like it but also got the "logged out" error just now.
    What really confuses me is that it shows me I've chosen a different Gravatar for myself, depending on what computer I'm using to view the site. I have a couple in reserve..
    That's not a killer, though, as [Redacted] and their hamsters actually do the same thing, except sometimes I'll see two different avatars, for myself, on the same page. After clearing cache. (I'm pretty sure I'm not on shrooms, but.. )

  10. […] know this explanation is not as cool as the Ghost-Riding Diff Explanation Team. If you are still confused, head on over to the HowStuffWorks link at the bottom. They do a much […]

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